It’s almost that time of year again. You gather your tax paperwork, submit it, cross your fingers, and hope for that big return. Sometimes you get it; sometimes you owe more money; and sometimes you find yourself with a dreaded audit.
Once the IRS tells you that you’re being audited, what do you do next? Here is a helpful checklist to guide you through this difficult process.
Study Up on Your Rights
Start here. Read this IRS pamphlet, word for word. Then read it again. Then go for a fifth time. Know this information, but more importantly, understand this information. There are ten separate items on this IRS document, with only about a paragraph of explanation for each. Don’t stop there. Google these terms. Anything that’s unfamiliar, look it up. When you look it up and come across another term you don’t understand, look that up.
“Knowledge is power” is a cliché you were told in school, but it happens to be true. Entering this situation with facts and awareness will prepare you if things get difficult.
You are entering a tense situation, but so is the auditor. No matter what, this is an inherently strained event. Keep these tips in mind as the audit begins.
The auditor is not your enemy. They’re just another person who is trying to do their job. Remain even, temperate, and on-task. Remember, they have all the power here. If you get on their bad side, they can make things harder for you.
The auditor is also not your friend. This isn’t the time to be trading pictures of the kids and telling cute stories about the dog. Keep it courteous, yes, but also keep it professional. Stay on message, and stick to the facts.
Always remember the humanity of your auditor. If you come in a disheveled mess, they’re going to draw conclusions about you. Have your records ready to go, in order, and easily accessible.
Get a binder with some color-coded tabs. Have a folder ready on your tablet with all the pertinent emails. Take some time, and be prepared. This is your homework. You can be assured that they will be ready with all of their info. You need to be ready with yours.
Take notes during the meeting. Keep those notes organized, even if you need to rewrite or restructure them later. Remember, this process is going to take time and effort if you want it to end well.
It’s really no good to start lying now. The IRS already knows what they know, and they’re here to investigate. It’s very possible that the whole affair is one big misunderstanding. That’s fine, and this is your chance to explain. However, it will not benefit you to attempt a sly maneuver here. Stay on your auditor’s good side, and tell the truth.
When the dust settles, and the auditor reaches their conclusion, you have the right to appeal. Talk to their supervisor. Within 30 days of their findings, write a letter to the IRS Office of Appeal. If that doesn’t help, it may be time to move the matter to tax court.
Talk to a Tax Lawyer
One of your best lines of defense is to call in the professionals. Even if you are certain that you are prepared and capable of handling this on your own – and you may be – a lawyer is still helpful.
At Buchalter & Pelphrey Attorneys At Law, taxes and audits are what we do, day in and day out. We have years of experience helping people through their tax problems, and we want to help you, too.
If you are facing an audit, we can help. Call us today at (321) 320-6088 or contact us online.